Thursday, May 14, 2020

Throwback Thursday Comedy Special: Remembering Jerry Stiller


We're dedicating today's Throwback Thursday post in memory of actor/comedian Jerry Stiller, who died Monday at the age of 92.

We have fond memories of Stiller, who used his training as an actor to create many comedic roles on stage, screen, and television.

As Peter Keepnews wrote in the New York Times,
Mr. Stiller’s accomplishments as an actor were considerable. He appeared on Broadway in Terrence McNally’s frantic farce “The Ritz” in 1975 and David Rabe’s dark drama “Hurlyburly” in 1984. Off Broadway, he was in “The Threepenny Opera”; in Central Park, he played Shakespearean clowns for Joseph Papp; onscreen, he was seen as a police detective in “The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three” (1974) and Divine’s husband in John Waters’s “Hairspray” (1988). But he was best known as a comedian.
The team of Stiller and Meara was for many years a familiar presence in nightclubs, on television variety and talk shows, and in radio and television commercials, most memorably for Blue Nun wine and Amalgamated Bank.
Years after the act broke up, Mr. Stiller captured a new generation of fans as Frank Costanza, the short-tempered and not entirely sane father of Jason Alexander’s George, on the NBC series “Seinfeld,” one of the most successful television comedies of all time.
Just a few months after the final episode of “Seinfeld” (in which Frank had one last moment in the spotlight, spending most of it yelling), broadcast on May 14, 1998, Mr. Stiller was back on television playing another off-kilter father — a marginally more restrained version of Frank Costanza — on another sitcom, “The King of Queens,” which made its debut that fall on CBS.
While his characters were not explicitly Jewish, there was no mistaking his ethnicity in all of  his roles. Although the ethnic and religious differences between Stiller and his wife Anne Meara were ever present and accounted for much of their appeal, when it came to religious affiliation in their 61-year-long marriage, they agreed to live a Jewish life.

As Allison Kaplan Sommer wrote in Haaretz,
After Meara died in 2015, the Jewish Women’s Archive noted that their relationship had been a groundbreaking one. Most Christian women in the ’50s who married Jewish men converted before marriage and took their husband’s names. Meara, still Catholic when the couple married in 1954, converted to Judaism before the birth of her children – Amy, and the actor/director Ben Stiller – so her kids “would know who they were,” she explained.
Ben Stiller once commented that it was his mother who “knew more about Judaism than our entire family combined.”
Here is the famous skit that Stiller and Meara performed on the Ed Sullivan Show, and went on to create skits to follow the course of their relationship.

Enjoy!

A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS:  THE VIDEO MAY NOT BE VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY ON SOME COMPUTERS AND TABLETS.  YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO. 




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